Is Michael Floyd good? Do his physical attributes make up for some questionable (to put it lightly) decisions off the field? Does the discrepancy in his targets and receptions fall on quarterback play, or is dude just swatting passes down like a defensive back?
These are the obvious to ask, but they’re the wrong ones. There’s really only one question that matters, and it was posed by Phil Perry shortly after the Patriots claimed the 2012 13th overall pick from Arizona on Thursday.
“We’ve seen guys come in, they’ve been here for the entire OTA sessions in the spring, all of training camp, and for the majority of the regular season and they still don’t can’t pick up the offense,” Perry said. “So why should we think Michael Floyd is going to have a little bit [of a] different fate?”
Bingo. That’s the question we should be asking: Why should we confidently believe that the Pats can bring in a receiver from outside the organization during the season -- especially this late in the season -- and expect plug-and-play production?
The fact of the matter is that such a tale is not common in New England. Dating back to the 2001 season, Jabar Gaffney (2006) and Deion Branch (2010) are really the only good examples of an in-season receiver addition having an impact, but both cases have massive asterisks.
After not living up to the billing of being the 33rd overall pick in 2002, the Texans let Gaffney walk at the expiration of his rookie contract. He was signed for the 2006 season by the Eagles, but Philadelphia cut him before the season started. The Patriots signed him in during their bye week (Week 6), and he made his first catch with the Pats in Week 8.
While Gaffney is correctly remembered as being a productive asset for Tom Brady, it took him a bit. Gaffney had 11 catches for 142 yards and one touchdown in seven regular-season games in 2006 before having 21 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs. In the 2007 season, he had 36 grabs for 449 yards and five touchdowns.
In 2010, there was Branch, for whom the Pats traded ahead of Week 6 following the trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings. Branch’s impact was immediate and significant, as he had nine receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown six days after being acquired. Despite joining the team late, he finished that season second on the team to Wes Welker in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (706). He also had five touchdowns.
Of course, the caveat there is that he was Deion Branch, so he wasn’t really new. Branch had spent his first four seasons in New England, winning some type of individual trophy in February of 2005.
There are plenty of other guys the Pats have added in-season, but other than those two, there’s really no other examples of success. J.J. Stokes? He was signed ahead of Week 12 in the 2002 season and had one catch in each of his two games before being released. One of those catches was a big one, however, as his 31-yard connection with Tom Brady set up a field goal against the Texans in Week 12. You remember that.
Dedric Ward? He probably doesn't even count since he was in camp, cut and brought back during the 2003 season before reeling in seven catches over four games.
Fred Coleman? He had two grabs in the 2001 season after being signed in November.
Take the 12 or so guys in this group (depending on whether you want to count guys brought in and then signed off the practice squad), add in the Chad Ochocincos and Doug Gabriels of the world who had more time prepare and still failed, and you've got a pretty tough offense to walk into with any sort of significant production.
So, when Bill Belichick said Friday morning that the acquisition of Floyd is not a “historical event,” history would agree with him. The Pats usually don’t see these in-season acquisitions at receiver make a big impact, and the ones who did work out in previous seasons were added much earlier than Week 15. Look around the league and you'll probably find the same story with every team, but you would think that if any quarterback would make these guys take off, it would be Tom Brady.
Maybe the other variables end up weighing in Floyd’s favor: his experience playing under Charlie Weis early in his college career, the lack of depth at receiver for the Pats at the moment, the fact that he hasn’t had a great career and is playing for his next contract, the fact that, you know, Brady will be throwing him the ball.
Yet, Brady was throwing the ball to those other guys, too, and really Branch was the only one of them to give the Pats an immediate return on their investment. Floyd could catch on, but doing so would make him a rarity for a new Patriots receiver in these circumstances.